Edwardian Fashion: A 5-Minute Guide

The Edwardian era was the period covering the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, and is sometimes extended to 1919.

Edward VII in coronation robes
Edward VII in coronation robes

Edward loved to travel, setting a style influenced by the art and fashions of Continental Europe.

English socialite Vita Sackville-West and friends at Ascot, 1912
English socialite Vita Sackville-West and friends at Ascot, 1912

A leisurely time when women wore picture hats and did not vote, when the rich were not ashamed to live conspicuously, and the sun really never set on the British flag. —Samuel Hynes.

Reminiscing in the 1920s, after the horrors of world war one, the Edwardian era was remembered with nostalgia.

A bygone time of long summer afternoons and garden parties, basking in a sun that never set on the British Empire.

Garden party at Fort York, Toronto, Canada, c1909
Garden party at Fort York, Toronto, Canada, c1909

Time for some fun.

Two French evening dresses from the Edwardian era (1901 - 1919) battle for your vote. Which one will win? Cast your vote to find out.

A

B

1909 Gala Dress. Silk tulle, machine woven silk in plain weave and satin. Silk ribbons, metal hooks. French, now owned by National Museum Norway.

1909 evening gown with empire waist, short sleeves and fishtail hem; skirt is square sequins on net over satin fitted to fishtail. Callot Soeurs.

Fashionable Londoners in front of Harrods, 190
Fashionable Londoners in front of Harrods, 1909

The Edwardian era marked a prominent turn in the direction of fashion for women.

Couturiers of Paris introduced a new columnar silhouette, with a distinctive "S" shaped curve.

It signaled the demise of the corset, which had been an indispensable garment of fashionable Victorian women.

The Edwardian era saw the full flowering of Parisian haute couture as the arbiter of styles and silhouettes for women of all classes.

A series of Edwardian fashion plates give us a good idea of the couturier designs that formed the basis for what women would wear.

Featuring Spring season designs from 1901 to 1906, these New York fashion plates also have notes from the designer.

The first plate shows a long sleeved, high-collared rose red dress with wide horizontal black band.

The decorative elements on the dress consist of two bands, set off by plain rose edging. One band consists of horizontal stripes of deep pink and black. The other band is of pink floral brocade.

The collar is of these two bands, set off by plain rose edging across the bodice with two bands forming a very deep "v" at the center front and zigzags reaching to the sides in a shallower v at the center back.

The sleeves have the upper sections of these two bands. Midway up the sleeves from wrist to elbow are puffed sections of rose. The skirt is gathered or softly pleated to the waist.

The skirt is gathered or softly pleated to the waist, flaring out with more fullness at the back with a slight train. The decorative bands form a series of three deep slightly curved v's just a few inches above the hem, creating a petal effect.

American_gown_1901

Dark, up-swept hairstyle in the "Gibson Girl" style wearing a long red dress with a black trellis-like diamond pattern on the bodice and skirt.

The outfit begins with a floral-patterned blouse in white, red, and black having a high neck and long, narrow sleeves reaching over the hand with a flared edge.

Disappearing beneath a full bodice, the blouse continues to a tightly-gathered waistline emphasized by several black bands.

Continuing to the ground where a double layer of red ruffles flow from underneath the hem, the back of the dress has a train of tightly-gathered folds which end in ruffles.

Shown in black and white is the rear view of the dress.

American_fashions_1902

This yellow gown has a pattern of leaves, or abstract flowers, with deep v neck over a pink under-layer and very high lace collar.

Having a layered collar of three or four ruffles, each picot-edged with a narrow band of black, a rosette of eight loops of narrow black ribbon adorns the front of the v neck.

The bodice has three vertical bands of black lace or netting on each side of the center front.

Sleeves are elbow length with two ruffles at the top, extending the look of the collar, and two ruffles at the elbow, trimmed with a black rosette.

The waist has three horizontal rows of black with bows at the back, and two long streamers over the skirt, which is gored smoothly over the hips, flaring into a trumpet line at the hem with a slight train.

A band of vertical lines of black lace or netting, mirroring the bodice, surrounds the skirt at knee length.

Below, five bands of wide ruffles encircle the hem, each picot-edged with narrow black ribbon.

Completed with elbow length fingerless mitts or gloves and black-banded, yellow flat-brimmed straw hat trimmed with white ostrich plumes.

American_fashions_Spring_1904

An outfit for the home, with elaborate up-swept hairstyle, the rose-colored long gown having floral patterned sleeves, lower bodice, and insets on the skirt.

The dress has a square neckline with a few soft pleats creating fullness in front.

Softly gathered into a light rose satin waist, the floral lower bodice has upper cap sleeves of rose, gently gathered at the armhole, and bands of trim on the top of the sleeve.

Full to the elbow, the lower floral sleeves are gathered into snug sleeves fitted from elbow to wrist.

Gathered softly at sides and back, the skirt flares from the waist into a full trumpet hemline, flat at the front and having three bands of decorative stitching across the hips.

Two bands of ornately shaped floral pattern decorate the skirt just below the knee on each side.

American fashions Spring 1904 (3)

And, of course, it just wouldn't be the Edwardian era without those hats, would it? Nine black and white photographs of women numbered 1 through 9 show a variety of hats for Spring 1902.

Number 1, in the upper left, wears a dark dress with a white jabot. Her hat is covered with overlapping rows of leaves.

Below her, number 2 wears a high necked white lace dress and has a dark straw flat-brimmed hat, adorned with white on the crown, and roses under the left side of the brim.

Number 3 wears a dark jacket over a white lace high-necked blouse. Her hat is woven straw of wide strands with several large feathers on the crown.

In the center column at the top, number 4 is wearing a white lace dress very similar to number 2. Her hat is covered with white lace, bows, and roses.

Summer hats, May 1903

Number 5 wears a gown or blouse of white lace with a white jabot. Her hat has a upstanding brim adorned with rows of small beads. At the side is a spray of feathers fastened with a round jeweled brooch.

Number 6 wears a black outfit trimmed with white-edged black ribbons, rows of white dots, black and white checks and lace at the collar, over a high-necked striped collar. Her dark hat has a very high brim, trimmed with white lace at the edge, and filled with many white plumes.

At the top of the right-hand column, number 7 wears a dark patterned high-necked blouse with a very deep white collar with a scalloped hem and inset diamond patterns.

Number 8 wears the same dress as number 6. Her hat is a small brimmed white hat adorned with a group of white flowers, bows, and black dotted veiling.

Number 9 has her back turned and wears a light jacket with a fluffy white jabot. Her hat is white with a banded brim turned up and trimmed with ruched dark velvet ribbon around the crown, and a jaunty feather at the side of the brim.

A splash of color works wonders on Edwardian hats, don't you think? The next fashion plate shows color illustrations of 6 women wearing summer hats from 1902.

Number 1 wears a tan hat ornamented with bunches of purple and green grapes, grape leaves, and green ribbon. Her neckline shows a high collared black blouse with ruffled black pleats.

Number 2 wears a fluffy pink hat, possibly of chenille, with a garland of large pink roses, green leaves, and green ribbons and bows. Her high collared white blouse has pink beads as decoration around the collar, and over that she wears a light blue jacket or coat with a fluffy collar.

Hat number 3 is brown and light blue, woven like a straw hat, decorated with white lace appliques and light blue leaves or feathers on the crown. She wears a high necked pale blue blouse with a jabot, a brown jacke, and a fluffy brown boa.

Hat number 4 is pale blue poufs decorated with white feathers around the brim. She wears a white high collared shirt with a red tie, and over that a white boa.

American hats Summer 1902

Hat number 5 is medium green with an upturned brim edged with garlands of leaves, with flowers and leaves dangling at the back. Her outfit is gray with a gray boa.

Hat number 6 is white with the brim edged with woven through black ribbon. Black bows trim the underside of the turned up brim, and the crown is decorated with white flowers and black bows. Her outfit is a pale blue shirt with a high white collar worn with a deep maroon bow tie. She also wears a black ruffled boa.

For Edwardians, there was nothing quite like a day at the races to show off the latest fashions.

The next fashion plate shows three women standing in casual conversation while a fashionable crowd behind them intently watches a horse race. The ladies and the crowd display their fashionable clothes, hats, and parasols while at this social event.

The woman at the left wears a gown of mulberry embroidered French voile decorated with Cluny lace.Her dress has a high collar of white lace, softly gathered sleeves, and a back waistline in a raised V.

Soft pleats fall from the Empire waistline into a flared skirt. Her hat is a high-crowned, narrow-brimmed straw decorated with a wreath of purple flowers and a large black feather plume.

American fashions Summer 1907

The woman at the center is wearing a black chiffon satin taffeta gown with embroidered batiste and lace. The collar is very high and of white lace, More white lace embroidered in black extends from the collar to the waist in a band at the center front.

Small top stitched pleats at the shoulders are released to form fullness at the bust. The sleeves are full from the shoulder to the elbow, and she wears white elbow length gloves.

Her skirt is formed of inverted box pleats, top stitched down to below the hips, then released to form the fullness of the skirt. She wears a black velvet hat with a turned up brim on her blond hair. The hat is decorated with a large white ostrich plume springing back from a red pin or flower at the front.

The third woman, at the right, is wearing a dress of pale yellow tussar with Irish lace. She wears two short strands of pearls at her neck.
Her gown has a white lace fold over collar in a v, over an under layer with a square neckline. Again the dress has softly released pleats at the shoulders, full elbow length sleeves, with lace cuffs matching the collar.

A black tie in a soft bow encircles the collar with the ends falling to the waist. A belt of the same fabric as the dress finishes the waist and has a large rectangular buckle at the front.

The skirt has knife pleats stitched to the hip than released softly. The pleats radiate back from a plain front center section.
She wears a wide brimmed straw, with a black band, black under brim decoration, and a large yellow rose with green leaves at the front. She wears white elbow length gloves.

References
Wikipedia
Clairemont College
National Museum of Norway
Gregg Museum of Art & Design

Downton Abbey—the quintessentially stylish depiction of aristocratic life in the Edwardian era.

Popular Posts

David James

David James

I'm an Englishman in Boston. History is a joy—it binds us, it connects us, it guides us. I'm interested in making history more accessible and more fun. Join me on this fantastic voyage through time.